A NEW French law regulating online gambling has hit a last-minute delay - following a complaint from Malta.
Online sport and horse racing bets will be opened up to new, legal competition as planned from next week, but France's plans to regulate online poker have been postponed by at least a month.
Malta has complained that the new law, which requires operators to be licensed in France, appears to contravene EU rules on free movement and trade.
The law has also hit people in France who have betting accounts abroad.
France now has a month to reply to Malta's concerns - and until then it cannot proceed with the poker element of the law.
This means that, from next week, some betting websites will be legal and regulated for some of the gambling services they offer, but not others.
Regulator Arjel will next week announce a list of 15 betting sites that have won approval and can now operate legally in France.
The government wanted to act quickly to avoid missing out on this month's football World Cup in South Africa, which will bring in extra tax revenue.
The move means the Française des Jeux and PMU will no longer have a monopoly on legal online gambling - with rivals such as BetClic and BWin getting legal recognition.
There are an estimated 20,000 websites operating in France that offer gambling. Illegal operators face up to three years in prison and a €45,000 fine but the law is hard to enforce as the operators are not based in the country.
Connexion readers living in France have complained that their accounts with UK companies have been closed as a result of the new law.
Both Betfair and William Hill have said they will stop bets from France while they consider their positions.
Betfair has setup a petition to challenge the policy, claiming that EU citizens should be able to gamble on any EU site - www.right2bet.net/fr
William Hill has said it is considering establishing a recognised French operation.
The government hopes that regulating online gambling will make it easier to fight money-laundering, keep minors out of the market and protect consumers from addiction.
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Andrew Brown - Fotolia.com